When 11-year-old Ethan Fineshriber became a World Championship in Taekwondo, his friends rushed into the ring and hoisted him up on their shoulders.
It was a sight that brought the Sandy, Utah, boy’s mother to tears – not just because of her son’s athletic accomplishment, but because he had finally found the acceptance that eluded him for years.
Diagnosed with autism at age three, Ethan always did well in school, but “basically had no friends nor desire to spend time outside or engaging with peers,” Ethan’s mom, Mara Fineshriber, wrote in a blog post for Autism Speaks.
“It hurt seeing Ethan have no friends, no birthday invitations, and no special people in his life, other than family,” she continued.
So, Mara enrolled Ethan at a local Taekwondo school in the hopes that it would help him learn to interact with others.
“For the first day it was just learning those new moves and it started getting me interested like I can learn this stuff and I can memorize this stuff and then I can do more of it,” Ethan told Fox 13.
As Ethan began to excel at the sport, he became more confident and learned to open up to the students and coaches around him. At the suggestion of his coaches, he started competing in national competitions.
“He finally fit in. He excelled,” his mom recalled. “He began to speak more. And then he began to win!”
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Three years ago, the young boy set his heart on earning a World Title and in early July, he achieved his dream by earning a perfect score at the ATA World Championship in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“I felt nervous that I wasn’t gonna win, but I thought I had a chance and then the judges called the numbers and everyone around me went insane,” Ethan said.
“These friends of his, they just rushed the ring and they hoisted him up on their shoulders and hugged him and congratulated him,” his mom recalled with tears in her eyes to Fox 13.
With one world title under his belt, Ethan said he plans to keep training and go back for more.
“Most people who meet him have no idea he has autism,” his mom wrote. “Those that do are in awe of how far he has come! I am one of the proudest mothers on the planet and I KNOW what it has taken to reach this place and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for him.”